What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea or constipation, or sometimes both. Due to its status as a chronic condition, those who have IBS need to manage it long term. 

Some people with IBS can control their symptoms through managing their diet, lifestyle, and stress. More severe symptoms typically require medication. It is important to see a doctor when one experiences any of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea at night
  • Weight loss
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Rectal bleeding 
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Persistent pain that isn’t relieved by gas or bowel movement
  • Difficulty swallowing

The precise cause of IBS isn’t known, but some research shows that early life stress is a major contributor. Due to that causation, it is no surprise that many veterans develop IBS in service or at some point after service. In fact, IBS makes up 13 percent of all digestive disorders claimed for VA disability benefits.

Getting Service Connected For IBS

Given that IBS is a digestive condition, medical records are the most important evidence veterans can provide when applying for service connection for IBS. Ideally, these medical records will show that (1) the veteran was diagnosed with IBS in service or within one year of discharge or (2) another service-connected impairment caused the development of IBS (such as PTSD or Anxiety). This type of evidence is important because it can provide the VA with medical proof that the veteran’s condition results from his or her military service. Any additional medical records from private practitioners or specialists who were seen outside of the veteran’s service time are helpful as well, although those types of records are most useful to exemplify the severity of the veteran’s current and past IBS symptoms. Private medical records alone that are from outside the veteran’s time of service are not sufficient to establish service connection unless they relate the IBS to another service-connected condition.

How The VA Rates Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Under 38 CFR § 4.114, the VA rates IBS, which the diagnostic code refers to as irritable colon syndrome, as follows:

Diagnostic Code 7319: Irritable colon syndrome (spastic colitis, mucous colitis, etc.)

  • 30 – Severe; diarrhea, or alternating diarrhea and constipation, with more or less constant abdominal distress
  • 10 – Moderate; frequent episodes of bowel disturbance with abdominal distress
  • 0 – Mild; disturbances of bowel function with occasional episodes of abdominal distress

Given that this condition has a maximum schedular disability rating of 30 percent, a veteran would likely be unable to get a total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating from this condition alone. However, depending on the severity of the veteran’s IBS, the VA may award an extra-schedular disability rating for the veteran’s condition if it impacts his or her ability to maintain a substantially gainful occupation.

Help With Your IBS Claim

If you are a veteran seeking assistance with your VA disability benefits claim for IBS, our veterans disability attorneys are ready to help. Please contact us today for a free claim evaluation.